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Kunming or Shenzhen?


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Hello everyone! So I've been offered a job teaching English in either Kunming or Shenzhen. Which is a nicer city to live? (I'm not really interested in night life, my priority is experiencing Chinese culture ,immersing myself in the Mandarin language and conversing with friendly locals). Also, I am being offered 7000 rmb more per month to work in Shenzhen, will this cover the difference in the cost of living? such as apartment, food etc. (I don't drink, I cook a lot at home rather than eating out)...I start to wonder with 7000 rmb maybe I might actually save more 😕


I'd appreciate any responses 😉

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Though I have been to both cities a number of times, I can't comment on the financial aspects, as I haven't spent much time there. (As you've already said, prices in Shenzhen are higher, but whether 7000 RMB will cover the difference, I don't know.)


What I can say, though, is that the cities are very different in character. Shenzhen is a new city. Everything has been built up over the last 30 years or so. Even though the city is in Guangdong province, where the local language is Cantonese, as most residents in Shenzhen have immigrated from other provinces in China, the dominant language is Mandarin. In terms of convenience of living, Shenzhen definitely wins. It is right next door to Hong Kong, making day trips possible. On the down side, though, there is a lot of pollution in that part of China, and even on a sunny day, the sky is more likely to be grey than blue. If you like traditional culture (old buildings), Shenzhen is not for you. Personally, for travelling, I find Shenzhen a very dull city. 


Kunming has a long history, and there are many historical sights in the region. Apart from this, there are many old neighbourhoods which are interesting to stroll around. Here, you will be able to get closer to traditional Chinese life. Although younger people will likely speak standard Mandarin, older locals will more likely be speaking their local dialect (not that this should have a significant impact on your life there). Kunming is more remote than Shenzhen, and other major cities in China are much further away. Nevertheless, there are many attractions in Yunnan province well worth a visit, and in my opinion, more interesting because of the different ethnic groups in the province.


If I were to choose between Shenzhen and Kunming, I would definitely choose Kunming in terms of the things that interest me about China. If you are looking for convenience, and possibly a larger expat community, then Shenzhen is definitely the way to go.

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I answer a "living in Kunming" question every few months, going back as far as 2006. Have lived here over ten years (off and on; not all the time.) Suggest you start by using the search box in the upper right-hand corner. Select "search by date" instead of "search by relevancy" to get more recent information.


I like Shenzhen as a place to visit, but have not lived there. Been there many times. Lived in nearby Zhuhai, and found it very pleasant. 


The financial incentive you have been offered is significant. A 7000 RMB pay differential might easily sway me to choose Shenzhen, even though I quite like Kunming life. You can find "authentic Chinese life" and friendly locals anywhere with a modicum of effort. 


Will be glad to help more with specific questions after you have done a bit more background reading. You might also find some useful information about Kunming on GoKunming (https://www.gokunming.com/en/). They always have lots of nice photos that capture the color and the flavor of Kunming. 


Like you, I cook most of my meals at home, and have found Kunming to offer a wide variety of fresh ingredients at reasonable prices. I know nothing about the bar scene and night life here. 

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From your opening post Kunming seems like the clear choice to me. 

I think it will take longer to adjust to Kunming than shenzhen if you are coming from a typical western city (however one defines that) . 


If you are coming to China for work only then I'd say shenzhen is the best choice


I never liked shenzhen , it has all the conveniences no doubt but just seems no character to it . 


If you are coming to China for a period in your life you would want that to be memorable hence best to  select a more traditional city, 


My 2 cents/mao anyway 

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Thanks so much for all the helpful responses guys!! ❤️

Yes, you are right... My heart was telling me Kunming right from the start. Another reason is because of its cooler climate, I like to spend most my time outdoors strolling around and this will be harder in the searing heat of Shenzhen.


According to the internet, a one bedroom apartment in the city centre of Shenzhen is 5000 rmb vs Kunming which is 2000 rmb (correct me if I'm wrong)...so with 7000 rmb extra, I won't save THAT much more...but I would definitely save a little more more in Shenzhen, even with more expensive groceries there. Maybe I'd save over 1000 rmb a month extra, but I guess I could trade this for a comfortable climate. 


Does anyone know which city has better parks...or just even walkways? (as I said I spend most of my time walking outdoors).. I heard motorcycles are banned in Shenzhen (this is actually a plus for me...I always feel like I'm going to get run over in China)

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6 hours ago, Shazmataz said:

Does anyone know which city has better parks...or just even walkways? (as I said I spend most of my time walking outdoors)


I might be wrong (as I'm not that familiar with Shenzhen), but as far as I understand, Shenzhen, being a new city, mostly consists of wide roads designed for modern traffic, lined by high-rise buildings. In my opinion, not very interesting to walk around.


On the other hand, Kunming, having existed since before modern times, will have many small neighbourhoods with many quiet back alleys, which make for interesting walking. Of course, most sizable cities in China have their modern areas also.


I love walking in Chinese parks. abcdefg has also provided some good links. You could check out parks in Shenzhen on Google maps.

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9 hours ago, 889 said:

I'd look very carefully at the reputation of the school and the specifics of the job and housing


Yes! I would look very carefully at what @889 has highlighted here... your personal happiness in either city is far more likely to be dominated by things like:

  • What is your workload at the school?
  • Are you earning what you are worth?
  • How much support do you get?  Are you thrown in at the deep-end and expected to develop lots of new material, or do they give it to you all in advance?
  • Has the school had any issues with visas, law enforcement etc?  Is it well-established and trustworthy?
  • How will you grow and develop as a professional while you are there?  What would be your next job?

No matter how lovely the city, or how wonderful an apartment you find, if you are living through hell at work then none of this will compensate.


Also Kunming and Shenzhen are about as far apart in China as it's possible to get... it's worth considering how easily you can travel to places you want to go, including home for family/friends and for holidays.  Kunming is ideal for travelling west and exploring SE Asia; Shenzhen would be much better if you want to East or have people in Japan, Korea, Bali or Australia for example.


As for the 7000 RMB difference, if you don't drink and always cook for yourself, then I would imagine you'd save a lot more money. Again, it depends on whether SZ suits your lifestyle, and if it doesn't are you happy to save the extra money anyway?


Everyone has different criteria!


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(Moved from Private Message)


About December weather -- It's usually beautiful. Cold but clear with blue skies and sun, no strong wind. With proper clothes, it's fine to be outside. Kunming seldom has snow. Sometimes a little bit falls in January, an inch or so. 


About Daguan Park 大观楼 -- Yes, it's far out on the western edge of the city. A long bus ride. Also on the western part of the city is a large mountain park 西山 Xi Shan. One can hike overnight there. Several small temples up in the hills as well as some simple guest houses. It overlooks Dian Lake 电池。One can also walk around the lake; parts have been paved and specifically set up for that.  


The main large park which is fairly central is Green Lake Park 翠湖。It's free. The old zoo 圆通动物园 is fairly central. Lots of flowers as well as animals. Good for walking. Costs 10 Yuan.  


Two smaller walking places that are fairly central are the Confucius Temple 文庙 and Yuantong Temple 圆通寺。Wen Miao is free, Yuantong Temple costs 6 Yuan. 


Kunming is a good city to ride a bike. I do that most of the time for trips of about 30 minutes or less. Do I still live in Kunming? Yes. 


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16 hours ago, mungouk said:

Also a long-weekend trip to Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia or Burma.


These are easier and easier to reach as Kunming has become a SE Asia airline hub. Short non-stop flights are more and more available at very decent prices. Last week I flew to Taiwan. In November I'll visit Luang Prabang. (Nonstop on China Eastern, flying time under 2 hours, cost under $200 USD.) Vientiane is also under 2 hours. Earlier this summer I flew nonstop to Chiang Mai, last winter to Bangkok. In the spring I flew to Hanoi, last winter to Saigon. I go to Kuala Lumpur about once a year, and from there occasionally move on to nearby places (sometimes Penang, sometimes Ipoh, sometimes south to Malacca.) Have explored Indonesia a bit; particularly like Bali. Hong Kong takes only a couple hours by plane, as does Macau. 


The new airport 长水国际机场 is the 5th busiest in China. We now have a new train station (South station 昆明南站) that serves as a high-speed rail link. Convenient trips down to Guangzhou and even up to Shanghai (if one likes long train rides.) 


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